US President Joe Biden said on Saturday that the United States had offered vaccines to North Korea, but had not received a response.
Biden was speaking at a joint news conference with South Korean President Yun Suk-yeol in Seoul, and both expressed concerns about Pyongyang’s residents currently battling the Omicron outbreak.
We have provided vaccines, not only to North Korea but to China as well, and we are ready to do so immediately. Agence France-Presse quoted Biden as saying.
In a joint statement, the two leaders said they were “ready to work with the international community to provide assistance to the DPRK to combat the virus.”
Biden also said that if Kim Jong Un was “honest” he would agree to meet the North Korean strongman.
There are reports that Kim Jong Un may prepare for a nuclear test during Biden’s visit, defying UN sanctions against Pyongyang.
Kim seeks to modernize the North’s military and has conducted a series of ballistic missile tests since the beginning of this year to showcase progress but also to attract attention as Pyongyang suffers from food shortages, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic spreading across North Korea is unlikely to deter Kim. Although millions have been infected and hundreds have died due to Pyongyang’s ill-preparedness, testing is still likely.
Also, Kim is likely to get angry because both Biden and Yoon have said their countries are ramping up joint military exercises.
“Our alliance between our two countries is based on shared sacrifice and commitment to the freedom of the Republic of Korea, and our resolute opposition to changing borders by force,” Biden was quoted as saying by the Korea Herald.
Yun and Biden agreed to expand mutual investment and cooperation to stabilize supply chains for industries such as semiconductors and batteries. “We live in an era of economic security where the economy is security and security is the economy, and changes in the international trading system and disruptions in supply chains directly affect people’s livelihoods,” Yoon said.
Biden has also sought to calm strained relations between Seoul and Tokyo. He said it is important to have a trilateral relationship between Washington, Seoul and Tokyo.
(With input from AFP and The Korea Herald)
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